Distraught media workers and stunned police officers converged on Bishop’s Court Hill this evening following the slaying of Nation Newspaper photojournalist Christoff Griffith.
Griffith, 25, of Brittons Hill, St Michael, was killed by an assailant while reporting on the death of 51-year-old Glenroy James on the grounds of the heavily wooded Bishop’s Court, the derelict former residence of the Anglican Church bishop from which the major City artery in Collymore Rock gets its name.
James was cleaning up the property when he was attacked by a vagrant who reportedly slept in the abandoned building.
The Nation photographer subsequently responded to the report of a body at the abandoned building unaware that the suspect was still at that location. When he arrived at the scene he was confronted by the man who cornered him and reportedly chopped him about his body.
Police Public Relations Officer Acting Inspector Rodney Inniss said Police received the first report around 11 a.m.
Griffith was the son of Police Sergeant Christopher Griffith who responded to the report not knowing that one of the victims was his son. The officer had to be taken from the scene by some of his colleagues.
The photographer, after finishing school at Deighton Griffith Secondary, first joined Barbados TODAY before moving on the Nation Newspaper.
Barbados TODAY was unable to speak to Griffith’s shaken relatives, some of whom were spotted at the scene briefly.
Shocked colleagues gathered at the scene comforted and consoled each other. For the most part, even those with tear-stained faces attempted to remain as strong as possible as they struggled to come to grips with the loss of their friend.
But the devastated comrades could not help but note that they could have been the ones to lose their lives today, since media workers routinely respond to scenes of crime, violence and catastrophe.
Still reeling in disbelief was veteran Nation photographer Sandy Pitt who said she could not help but to think that “it could have been me”.
“Christ-off was a cool, humble guy and had a bright future ahead of him. I want to send my condolences to his family and the entire Police and media fraternity,” Pitt said.
Journalist Kimberly Cummins recalled that she first worked with Griffith at Barbados TODAY when he was just 17 years old straight out of Deighton Griffith School. Cummins said she and Griffith also worked at The Nation where they created a strong bond to chase stories.
“He was a fantastic photographer and a better person. He was always enthusiastic to fulfill any crazy idea I had. He was never too big to accept advice and would even share some with me to help me get better. He was uncle Chris to Blake [Cummins’ son] and a dear friend to me. I love Chris so much, I still can’t believe he is gone,” Cummins said.
Barbados TODAY photographer Remy Rock who continuously asked himself why, recalled the days he and Griffith battled for the front-page picture of the day.
“After he moved on to the Nation Newspaper our friendship grew even stronger as we both did all the entertainment events together where we battled for the best photos. I would always pull him backstage to take photos with artistes,” a shaken Rock said.
Affectionately referred to as Stoff, Griffith was unassuming but one of the brightest sparks in the bunch, said journalist Rachel Agard who will forever remember the many assignments on which she partnered with him.
Agard said up to last week, she and Griffith were at an assignment busy making plans to go on an off-road adventure when the rains came.
“And though we have not shared an outward fondness toward each other, he would always check up on me and make sure all was well, as I did with him especially when he was out late on the roads.
“He will surely be missed; his laughter, his quirks, his love for gaming, just Stoff. May he fly among the chosen few, keep clicking away and always be the real fete chaser,” Agard said.
Press Secretary Roy Morris, who was the first editor-in-chief of Barbados TODAY, said the horrific news was extremely difficult to digest. Morris described the young man as a respectful individual who displayed sound values he learned in his Christian home.
Morris said: “I have seen him grow from the tiny and timid trainee news photographer at Barbados TODAY, who was afraid to raise his camera to his face when a policeman in tactical wear shouted at him at a murder scene, to a still tiny but confident photographer, who, if confronted by that same policeman today would not back down – but he would not utter a word of insult of disrespect.
“I cannot imagine the pain and heartache that must be enveloping Chris, Sonia and the rest of the family at this time-but if it is any consolation, if it is possible for anyone to boast of raising a near-perfect son, you can.”
Anglican Bishop Michael Maxwell who was at the scene explained that the diocese hired A&B Pest Control to remove asbestos from the property. He said it was unfortunate that Griffith and James lost their lives.
He said: “Of course, on behalf of the Diocese of Barbados and the Diocesan Trustees who are the ones responsible for the property, we wish to of course extend our deepest sympathy to the families of our departed brothers. And we will try our best to do whatever we can, and of course to lend whatever assistance we can.”
A statement issued by the executive of the Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers read that the media fraternity has lost one of its brightest sparks in Griffith who was killed in the line of duty.
The statement also assured members of the fraternity that there would be a time to reflect on how the tragedy would impact the way things are done in the media going forward, but at this time it is important to remember Griffith as an asset not just to the company where he worked, but to the profession as a whole.
“We are saddened that his life and career has been cut short, for a young man who was always willing to listen and to learn more about his chosen craft,” the statement said.
BARJAM is also hopeful that the Royal Barbados Police Force will swiftly bring to justice the person responsible for his death.
The news sent shock waves across the Caribbean news media. In a statement of condolence on the fallen media worker, the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) said it “condemns this and all other ruthless forms of attacks on journalists and the media throughout the world.
“This incident highlights the vulnerability of media professionals and calls for greater vigilance by all when out in the field.
“We call for swift action in apprehending the perpetrator responsible”.
James’s grieving sister Roxanne James said her brother, a Guyanese national, had been living in Barbados for over 20 years.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY at the scene, James said she was shocked at the sudden death of her beloved brother whom she lived with at Grazettes, St Michael. She said when she left home for work this morning, her sibling was still in bed.
“I just want to get the essence of the story. Just telling me that he just got chopped up is not enough for me. I want to know what is the reason for it and if somebody else was there how did the story get out that he was in there.”
It was just that “essence of the story” Christoff Griffith was trying to get to when he met his death. He became approximately the 1400th journalist killed in the line of duty since 1993 and the 26th for the year, according to records maintained by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) global observatory of killed journalists.